Skip the Home Wash: Car Washes Better During Drought

RENO, NV - At the Metro Car Wash on Longley Lane, owner Ernie Ionno looks up at the cloudy sky, concerned how the weather will affect business that day.

But the clouds and wind didn't keep everyone away. By lunchtime Tuesday, a steady stream of drivers filtered through on their breaks to wash the dirt off their cars. And with the way our weather is going, it's possible Ionno could soon see a boost in business.

As the water pours down on each car, it's a reminder that Washoe County is in the middle of a drought, and we should be looking for ways to conserve.

One way several counties in states affected by drought will try and save water is by restricting home car washing. That is currently the case in some areas of California where the severe drought has prompted Governor Jerry Brown to ask residents to reduce their water use by 20%.

But why restrict people from washing their cars at home? Experts say that's because people who wash their cars at home tend to use, and waste, more water.

"Research has shown people who wash their cars at home use about 200 gallons of water," Ionno said.

But that doesn't mean you have to drive around in a dirty car. Instead of rinsing it off at home, county officials will encourage drivers to head to their local car wash.

With each wash costing just a few bucks, it's in a professional car wash's best interest to use as little water as possible.

Ionno says his car wash uses between 40 to 50 gallons of water per wash.

There are other benefits as well. If you wash your car at home, the water you use may just run off the driveway into the street. Professional car washes have recycling measures in place.

"Some water can be reused multiple times," Ionno said. "Otherwise, it all goes back to the treatment plant and essentially recycled."

The Truckee Meadows Water Authority says there are no current plans to follow in California's step and restrict home car washing, but with no future storms in the forecast, they are asking you to be aware of any wasteful use. Especially since our snow pack level is about 32% of where is should be at this point.

"We're in a different situation than California is thankfully," TMWA representative Will Raymond said, "We definitely have adequate water supplies. But naturally we're in a conservation mode as well."